Looking to the west with the sun at high noon, the sky was a brilliant blue with cotton ball clouds scattered about. The kind of sky that makes you smile. However, turning to the east was an opposing image of angry black clouds spitting flashes of lightning as they rolled toward me. My beautiful bright sky would be turned to turmoil in only minutes. I picked up the pace in completing my errands in order to find refuge from this approaching storm. Hearing the thunder-claps and the pounding of the rain against the windows from the comfort of my home became something to enjoy rather than escape.
I was adequately prepared to be out in this storm – umbrella within arms reach, fuel to prevent being stranded, appropriately dressed for the temperature, even if it drops a few degrees (a source of delight for Houstonians in August). Yet I wanted to avoid the discomfort and inconvenience of slogging in and out from the car to the stores, the messiness of carrying a wet umbrella everywhere, and the potential for an embarrassing exhibit as my feet would slip and slide in my wet flip-flops. So I chose to put off what could have been done today for another day when the sky might be bright again.
I think of how many times I have tried to outrun the storms in this life. For so long, when I would see them on the horizon all my energy and efforts were applied to trying to escape the impact that was sure to come. Ill-equipped to face the onslaught, fear sent me scrambling to find shelter, doing whatever I had to do to quell the panic inside. Fear made the winds of disapproval stronger, the thunder of anger louder, the lightning of harsh words more frightening, the black clouds of uncertainty darker, the incessant pounding of the rain of insecurity more fierce in its attack – no matter what plan of escape I had, they seemed to overtake me again and again, leaving in the aftermath a mess that was my soul.
I put off what needed to be done in the storm – have the hard conversations, push through the difficult emotions, learn how to stand up for myself – believing it would be easier to face when the sun came out again. Yet when the skies turned bright I still lacked the knowledge of how to deal with the storms. I couldn’t outrun them and I didn’t know how to go through them and come out with my soul intact.
When the disciples were in trouble in the storm and Jesus appeared to them walking on the water, He didn’t immediately calm the storm. He called Peter to Him IN the storm. He didn’t just try to calm Peter’s fears while he was in the boat, he told Peter that he would be able to do what He was doing – walk on the water in the midst of the storm. For that to happen, Peter had to step out of the only thing that could save him in the natural – the boat. He had to do something he had never done before, something that he was scared to do, something that didn’t make sense. And while Peter did let fear creep in and Jesus had to save him, kudos to Peter for getting out of the boat! Once Jesus had caught Peter and they both got in the boat, then the seas became calm. (Matthew 14)
We need refuge from the storms in life. The refuge, the shelter and protection that God is for us isn’t just in the boat on calm seas. It’s there in the midst of the storms. This Refuge calls to us to step out into areas unknown, doing things we’ve never done before, and getting drenched in the process! I suspect that Peter was already soaked to the skin before he ever began to sink. A miracle happened in Peter’s life that day that even his moment of doubt couldn’t change – he walked on the water. Can you imagine the conversations that happened on that boat? Yes, they were awed by the calm seas, but if I had to guess, they talked even more about Peter’s experience!
To find Him as our Refuge, we must believe in His everlasting, immeasurable, abounding love for us. He knows storms are coming our way and He is our way of escape. He doesn’t prevent the storms and He doesn’t always keep us dry and comfortable. But He always reveals Himself more clearly and causes us to do things we never believed possible when we see Him, move toward Him, and stay with Him in the midst of the storm.
God is our Refuge and Strength [mighty and impenetrable to temptation], a very present and well-proved help in trouble. Psalm 46:1
Be merciful and gracious to me, O God, be merciful and gracious to me, for my soul takes refuge and finds shelter and confidence in You; yes, in the shadow of Your wings will I take refuge and be confident until calamities and destructive storms are passed. Psalm 57:1
I must admit, I will never be a storm-chaser. I don’t run after them. But I am definitely a storm-facer, no longer afraid of the storms on the horizon for I have found my Refuge.